Volvo’s announcement on July 5, 2017, which all its vehicles will be hybrid or electric by the early date of 2019, made it the first auto manufacturer to talk of ending the reliance on combustion engines.
However, that raised questions about how they can accomplish this promise to populations throughout the globe whose transportation traverses many hundreds of miles. What are several current happenings in battery technology that could make believers out of those drivers who are on the cusp of electric vehicle (EV) conversion? What will aid in removing the daunting barriers of distance and cost that presently keep many potential buyers skeptical?
For example, in China, with its conservation mindset, taxis are powered by electricity, electric scooters outnumber gas ones, and buildings and towers are topped with solar panels.
So why isn’t there a United States-based conversion to battery-powered modes of transportation? Mostly convenience and not having the patience to wait nor stop after a short haul. The average American driver who may be planning a vacation doesn’t want to face the possibility of running out of power and air-conditioning.
Because of an abundance of hydropower, the Pacific Northwest is the nation’s largest producer of carbon-free and renewable energy. Coupled with residents who are conservation-minded, it becomes an ideal location for a wholesale conversion to electric vehicles.
John Goodenough, now age 94, joined colleagues in inventing the rechargeable lithium-ion battery in 1980. Now he has improved on his design and created the first all-solid-state battery cell, which means that the batteries, being rechargeable, will last longer and be noncombustible, which would be a real boon to mobile handheld devices and electric cars.
Because the energy density in a battery determines an EV’s driving range, and those battery cells have three times the density of lithium-ion batteries, drivers will eventually be able to drive farther and longer.
With no timeline for when the above will be on the market, we need to look toward other advances that are closer to becoming accessible, like Israel startup StoreDot’s FlashBattery technology which is said to charge a car in just five minutes. Its technology leverages nanotechnology to create uber-fast charges and hopes to debut the five-minute smartphone charger next year.
Although in its infancy, another possibility is a dynamic electric vehicle charging (DEVC) system being developed by French automaker Renault along with Vedecom and Qualcomm Technologies. In May, outside of Paris, two electric vehicles drove on a test track of 100 meters with buried coils emitting an electromagnetic field that converted into the cars’ electricity systems. Electric vehicles that are driven by DEVC even 25 percent of the time would not need to stop to be recharged.
From Purdue University, their instantly rechargeable “flow” membrane-free IFBattery extends the battery life and is more cost-effective. Drivers would just pull up to a fueling station that dispenses fluid electrolytes in water and methanol or ethanol solution. Spent battery fluids would be safe enough for residential storage and could later be recharged at an energy-efficient wind, solar, or hydroelectric facility.
Since transportation accounts for 14 percent of global greenhouse gasses, it is becoming critical to expand electric car driving and wean drivers away from gas guzzlers.